It was Tuesday in Lampasas, as opposed to Saturday in New York.
On Saturday, with the live television cameras bringing every smile and twitch into our favorite restaurants and living rooms, the NFL Draft, the version of the year 2004, will take place. Roy Williams will be right there in New York City's Madison Square Garden, waiting to become the first Texas Longhorn receiver in almost 25 years (it actually is 25 drafts) to be picked in the First Round.
And somewhere in Central Texas, Johnny Jones will smile, and remember.
Johnny Jones of Lampasas, Texas, that is. Folks just called him "Johnny Lam."
Roy's family will be there with him, and the analysts will pour over every statistic, every rumor, every fact, until the NFL commissioner walks to the microphone and announces, "With the (to be determined) pick of the draft, the (to be determined) select Roy Williams, wide receiver, The University of Texas."
Johnny Lam Jones sat with his 86-year-old grandfather, who had helped raise him, at his home in Lampasas that Tuesday, April 29, 1980.
"My grandfather always said he hoped he lived to see me make it. If I should have been with anyone, it was him," Jones said.
The Rev. Arthur Anderson was almost 90 when he laid down his Bible for the last time.
And what he had seen, by Johnny's own admission, was the best and the worst of the life of a Texas legend.
It was on a late spring night in 1976 when Johnny Jones ran his way into immortality in Texas high school sports. A signee for Darrell Royal's Longhorn football program, he had already won both the 100-yard and 200-yard dashes at the UIL State Meet. Lampasas, with three little guys, and Johnny running the anchor leg, needed to win the Mile Relay to claim the team state AAA championship.
The dampness of the evening was beginning to move from humid to pleasant, and the slight wind stirred the banners in the infield and billowed the flags at the south end of the track inside Memorial Stadium.
Those who were there, and there are legions who swear they were, all have differing opinions of the moment in time. But everybody agrees that when Johnny Jones took the baton from the third runner for Lampasas, he was at least 50, and probably more like 75, yards behind the race's leading runner.
That is when Johnny Jones, in a burst of speed seldom seen in track annals in any high school meet, started to run. He passed the runners between him and the leader, and, like a great horse heading down the back stretch, steadily made up ground. By the last turn, he was within 10 yards of the lead.
Then, as the race's leader saw the tape at the finish line, he slid over to lane two, anticipating a winning conclusion. And Johnny Jones of Lampasas, Texas, gracefully ran by him in lane one, took the lead, broke the tape and sprinted into history.
By the summer, he was on the 1976 United State Olympic team, and his relay team won a gold medal in Montreal.
The state, and the sports world in general, wasn't far removed from the presence of another legend. "Bullet" Bob Hayes had moved from the track world to the football world as a wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys. As the "world's fastest human," he had used his sprinter's speed to become a quality NFL receiver.
Now, Darrell Royal and Texas surely had recruited his equal. Despite a season where injuries riddled Royal's last Longhorn team in 1976, "Lam" Jones (as he was now known in order to tell him apart from Johnny Jones from Hamlin, who was to become Johnny "Ham") led the team in all-purpose yards (714). He also ran for 182 yards (No. 3 on the UT all-time freshman rushing list) against Rice and 122 versus SMU. His 624 yards on the year at the time ranked second only to Earl Campbell and now still stands sixth on the Longhorn freshman chart.
That spring, the young man who had finished sixth in the 100 meters in the Olympics won the Texas Relays in hand-timed 9.85 seconds, a time that would have been a world record had not the electronic clock malfunctioned.
Then in 1977, he moved to wide receiver under new head football coach Fred Akers. He led the Longhorns in receiving three straight years, the only player in Texas history to do that until Roy Williams tied the mark over the last three years.
Jones ranks 10th on the UT all-time all-purpose yardage list (3,042). He also is one of only three players in Longhorn history that have rushed for 100 yards in a game and registered a 100-yard receiving game during their careers. His 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against SMU in 1978 is a UT record.
That is a capsule version of his odyssey before that April day in 1980. The New York Jets, not that far removed from their famous Super Bowl victory 11 years earlier in 1969, traded two first round draft choices to move up to No. 2 in the draft, and with their pick, they selected Johnny Jones of Lampasas, Texas.
"I remember that it was an exciting time," says Jones. "I think the thing I remember the most was being happy for my teammates, because a lot of us were going to get a chance to play and live that dream."
In fact, Jones and six other Longhorns were drafted that day, with defensive backs Johnnie Johnson and Derrick Hatchett also going in the first round. That marked a Longhorn best for first-round picks in a single draft. Steve McMichael went in the third. Darrell Royal's last team at Texas had been injured, but his last recruiting class did not leave the cupboard bare for his successor.
It was the beginning of a dream, but for Johnny Jones of Lampasas, Texas, it would turn into a nightmare.
First of all, games and challenges never scared Johnny. People did. Folks thought he was just extremely shy, and sometimes rude. Years later, they would diagnose the condition he had as Social Anxiety Disorder. Ricky Williams suffered from it, so did Earl Campbell. Only in 1980, nobody had a name for it.
And if you are afraid of crowds and people, New York City, New York, ain't your style.
Signed as the first player ever to get a million dollar contract in the NFL (he signed for $2.1 million over six years), he was an instant celebrity in The City that Never Sleeps. And neither did Johnny.
Temptations called, and he answered. In 1985, far from the quiet kid who earned a Gold Medal before he ever entered college, Johnny Jones quit football and returned to Texas.
Injuries? Contract disputes?
"I needed to get my personal life in order," said Johnny. "I came back to live in the real world." Tracing the story, it is easy to see how it could happen. Small town kid. Big city. Lots of money. But Johnny Jones, circa 2004, won't let you go there.
"You're trying to be nice to me," he says. "But that's making excuses for me. I made my own choices, and I have to take responsibility for them. I got to run in the Olympics, got a great education and played for The University of Texas, and played for the New York Jets."
"How could I? I learned a lot, and I had some tough lessons. The only regret I have is if I hurt somebody else. I never wanted to hurt anybody," he said.
And now, as Roy Williams awaits that moment when his name is called, what advice do you have for him?
"I am not qualified to give him any advice," Johnny said. "He has made the right decisions, like coming back to school for his last year. He has done the right things both athletically and personally. He's got his head on straight, and is handling it well. He's much more mature than I was. He is better prepared to face the things he's going to face. The only thing I would tell him is 'don't do what I did.'"
Monday, when Roy Williams is beginning negotiations for an exceedingly multi-million dollar contract, Johnny Jones will be heading to work as a track and field consultant for Track Masters, Inc., a company that installs running tracks all over the country. He's a salesman. Not bad for a guy once afraid of people.
He talks to groups, particularly kids, about his experiences. He is a hero to many, but none more so than the participants of the Texas Special Olympics, to whom he gave his Olympic Gold Medal some years ago.
He has no bigger fan than the man who recruited him all those years ago.
"Johnny has done well," says Darrell Royal. "A lot of guys seek help, but a lot of them don't pay attention to it. Johnny did."
It is an exciting time for Roy Williams, and a reflective time for Johnny Jones of Lampasas, Texas, who was voted into the Longhorn Hall of Honor in the fall of 1994. It's appropriate that we celebrate Roy, and remember Lam Jones.
And somewhere beyond the sky, you have to figure that Reverend Anderson celebrates, too.
Roy is about to embark on an adventure.
But Johnny Jones, of Lampasas, Texas, has made it.